For centuries, people have used apple cider vinegar for cooking, cleaning, and even homeopathic purposes. Lately, this acidic liquid made from fermented apples has become popular among people looking to lose weight —also known as the ACV diet. From tossing back a couple of tablespoons to taking an ACV supplement, will apple cider vinegar really help you lose weight?
In this article, we’ll explain what apple cider vinegar is, its common uses, as well as what the research says about its ability to boost weight loss.
What is apple cider vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar, also known as ACV, is a type of vinegar made from the juice of crushed apples. Bacteria and yeast added to the juice jumpstart fermentation, a process in which the sugars in the juice are converted to alcohol. Another type of bacteria is then added to convert the alcohol to acetic acid, which gives vinegar its acidic taste and strong smell. [1
Apple cider vinegar contains about 5-6% acetic acid —the rest is water and trace amounts of other elements, like malic acid, sodium, and potassium [1
]. It also contains a meager 3 calories per tablespoon.
Uses for apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has a multitude of uses around the home–it can add brightness to salad dressings, tenderize meat in marinades, and pickle and preserve fresh produce. Diluted ACV also makes a great clarifying hair rinse, and its antimicrobial properties make it a great, all-purpose cleaning solution for the kitchen, bathroom, and beyond.
ACV has also been used as a natural remedy for various ailments including kidney stones, urinary tract infections, sore throats, and more. It was even once considered a treatment for scurvy, a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency, despite containing only trace amounts of vitamin C [2
]. However, there is no good scientific evidence to support any of these uses.
Can apple cider vinegar help you lose weight?
Proponents of apple cider vinegar claim that drinking a small amount or taking a supplement before meals can help you lose weight. But does science back up the hype?
A few clinical studies have found that people who consumed 1-2 tablespoons of ACV diluted in water experienced modest weight loss compared to those who drank no vinegar [3
]. Furthermore, other research reports that ACV can reduce appetite, but this may be attributed to nausea caused by the vinegar drinks [5
While ACV may slightly enhance short-term weight loss, the results do not seem long-lasting and have yet to be replicated in larger, high-quality trials with diverse populations. A 2020 review of studies looking at the safety, side effects, and metabolic and weight management benefits of ACV found the cumulative evidence to be insufficient due to a lack of high-quality research [6
In summary, ACV doesn’t seem to be the magical weight loss aid the media has hyped it up to be. Sure it may help you lose an extra couple of pounds over the course of a few months, but the results don’t seem to last. You’ll likely achieve better results by eating whole foods rich in fiber, lean protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and by limiting the sugar in your diet.
If you choose to consume vinegar, for weight loss or any other homeopathic purpose, always make sure it is well diluted. In scientific studies, a typical dose is one tablespoon of vinegar mixed into 8 fluid ounces of water [3
Downsides to drinking vinegar
Before you grab that bottle of ACV, it’s important that you are aware of the potential risks, as consuming large amounts of vinegar (~8 fluid ounces/day) can have some negative consequences, and the long-term safety of ingesting vinegar is still unknown [1
]. Here are some of the downsides and potential health risks to be aware of.
The acidity can damage tooth enamel.
Vinegar is typically consumed in small amounts as part of a dressing or marinade (which buffers its natural acidity). When sipped or not diluted properly, the acidity of vinegar can damage tooth enamel. Once the enamel on your teeth thins or wears away, there’s no way to replace it.
Vinegar’s acidity can irritate your throat.
If not properly diluted, drinking vinegar may irritate, or even burn the delicate tissues in your mouth, throat, and lining of your esophagus causing inflammation, pain, and discomfort. Long term, it could even increase your risk of cancer since chronic inflammation of the esophagus is a cancer risk [1
Drinking vinegar can cause GI disturbances.
Apple cider vinegar has been shown to slow down digestion, which can cause some unpleasant GI side effects (like bloating and flatulence). Consuming vinegar could also worsen a common condition in diabetics called gastroparesis which slows stomach emptying. [7
It may make you feel nauseous.
The acidity of vinegar can cause digestive upset. One study showed drinking vinegar before a meal reduced appetite and caused nausea in its subjects [5
Vinegar can lower potassium levels.
Apple cider vinegar might lower potassium levels in the blood. If your potassium is already low or if you take a diuretic for low blood pressure, apple cider vinegar might make it too low [7
]. Low potassium can lead to weakness, muscle cramps, constipation, confusion, and an abnormal heart rhythm.
Vinegar can lower blood sugar.
Apple cider vinegar might lower blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes, taking apple cider vinegar along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to drop too low [7
Apple cider vinegar is a type of vinegar made from the juice of crushed apples, and has long been used as a natural remedy for numerous ailments. Some proponents also claim drinking vinegar or popping an ACV supplement before meals can help you lose weight, but there is little evidence to support long term, sustained weight loss.
If you’re looking to lose weight, ACV isn’t a magic bullet. You’ll achieve better, longer-lasting weight loss results by eating a whole-food diet rich in fiber, lean protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and by limiting the sugar you consume.
Disclaimer: The text, images, videos, and other media on this page are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to treat, diagnose or replace personalized medical care.